Coming on the heels of the pandemic, mobile games are leading the growth of digital game consumption. According to App Annie, 2020 will be a blockbuster year for mobile games; spending is on track to extend its lead to more than 2.8 times over PC gaming and 3.1 times more than home game consoles. For last week’s LA Games Conference, a panel of industry leaders discussed where the next wave of creativity and innovation for mobile games will come from and how they see the industry evolving post-pandemic and beyond.

Here we share some highlights from the panel, which was moderated by Ayzenberg president Chris Younger and featured Lisa Anderson, SVP, Studio Operations, Jam City; Andrew Paradise, CEO, Skillz; Chris Petrovic, SVP and head of corporate strategy, M&A & business development, Zynga; Soojeong Song, gaming vertical lead, Google; and Mark van Ryswyk, executive VP, Glu Mobile. 

On Seizing The Moment

“To your point about this aggregate increase in play time, when we look across our portfolio, we’re seeing a marked movement in terms of the amount of play time across casual and core products. It’s particularly pronounced in the casual space. One of the reasons for that is there are a lot of consumers looking for forms of entertainment right now. These are non-traditional gamers discovering games for the first time. Shelter in place has allowed us to access this new audience, which is demonstrating the same behaviors of our existing player base.”

Mark van Ryswyk, executive VP, Glu Mobile

On Cultivating Community Through A Cause

“Late last year, we launched an initiative called Gaming for Good and we’ve raised over $500,000 to date, with half the funds in Q1. Our bigger partnership in April was with Extra Life, to partner to raise funds for children’s hospitals to combat COVID. It’s a double-win because it’s helping causes around the world engage with younger audiences in a new and important way. At the same time, it’s driving higher retention and engagement for our consumers—they’re happier to be able to play for a cause.

—Andrew Paradise, CEO, Skillz Inc.

On Conversions After COVID-19

“One bigger long-term trend I see is conversions will be a key opportunity. We’ve already seen a rise of super-casual games. Moving forward, to capture a wider audience, I see the blurring of lines as games borrow from each other to combine the best of both worlds. We’re seeing a shift in business models as well. In April, we saw that casual games, which are classically ad-funded, saw an in-app purchase increase in revenue. Whereas social casino games saw an increase in ad revenue. Games have begun to blend their monetization strategies while players shift behavior as well. Studios will continue to converge this hybrid model to appeal to a broader audience coming to mobile.”

Soojeong Song, gaming vertical lead, Google

On Finding Other Revenue Streams

“A fascinating thing that’s happening for Skillz and the businesses on our network is that during the pandemic we’ve seen a huge acceleration, particularly with offline brands, in areas like sports or retails where they’re looking to build a more meaningful digital presence and engage with video game content. I think you can expect us to be announcing a number of meaningful partnerships with brands and deeper brand integration into the games on the network over the next few months.”

—Andrew Paradise, CEO, Skillz Inc.

On Enhancing The Channel Mix

“When we think about the playbook moving forward, we’re looking at growing social channels like TikTok and Snapchat, as they continue to improve their ad serving capabilities, as an area we want to continue to test as well as traditional avenues like television. We’ve been running some spots for [Disney] Emoji Blitz and so far we’re seeing some really encouraging results there. It’s really a mix of looking at new opportunities from a channel mix standpoint as well as some of the more traditional things.”

—Lisa Anderson, SVP, Studio Operations, Jam City

On Meeting Consumers Where They Are

“I think it behooves all of us to be able to support the notion of making our games available to wherever consumers want them. That model has proven itself time and again in other parts of the world, specifically Asia. The world is increasingly recognizing that games are such a connecting force and that it’s helpful for platforms to have games as an offering because of the unique interactivity and social density that they offer. We’re excited as game makers to be able to bring that to whoever.”

Chris Petrovic, SVP and head of corporate strategy, M&A & business development, Zynga

On The Discovery Journey

“Re-engaging players has been really important, so reminding them why they enjoy our games with initiatives like Play Apart Together. Jam City did its own version of that with our Care-A-Thon which is designed to give back to our players. When shelter in place went into effect, we reached out to our players letting them know we’re here for them and that we’re listening to their feedback. We were surprised to see how much it resonated with them.”

—Lisa Anderson, SVP, Studio Operations, Jam City